New Pyrenees pipeline to help cut dependence on Russian gas – an annotated infographic

March 4, 2015

The leaders of Spain, France and Portugal are expected to strike an accord in Madrid to build a new pipeline through the Pyrenees that would allow Spain to pump almost 15 billion cubic metres of gas a year northwards – approximately 10 per cent of the supply currently coming from Russia.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

It's a gas gas gas

It’s a gas gas gas

#Nasa probe reaches dwarf planet #Ceres – an annotated infographic

March 3, 2015

Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft is to begin orbiting Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Having been launched in 2007, Dawn spent a year from 2011-2012 orbiting Vesta – the asteroid belt’s second-biggest object – as part of a mission to understand how planets were formed. Now she’s moving on to Ceres.

Scientists have been speculating that bright lights spotted recently on Ceres’ surface could be light reflections from ice or evidence of volcanic activity.

Either that, or the good burghers of Ceres City are preparing a spectacular welcome party for Dawn’s fly-by, with an elaborate carnival, a fireworks display and possibly a laser light show. Not many people drop by Ceres, so we can only surmise that they’re pretty darn excited to see someone, even if it is only Probey Dawn enjoying one last huzzah before her mission ends in July.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Dawn, but not forgotten

Dawn, but not forgotten

E&T news weekly #39 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

February 27, 2015

Friday February 27 2015

Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Robotic nurse bear to take over demanding healthcare tasks

Cuddly healthcare robots have been in the news this week, just as they have been in cinemas lately. In the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, the friendly humanoid robot Baymax is designed to diagnose medical conditions and also act as an empathetic companion to soothe convalescing patients. Back in the real world, as life imitates art, Japanese engineers have developed a robotic bear that can assist and potentially even replace nurses in hospitals by helping immobile or otherwise movement-impaired patients. Created by a team from Japan’s largest research institute RIKEN and a private company Sumitomo Riko, the robotic creature can lift and transport patients in its arms or support those less stable on their feet.

Robotic cat to help treat dementia

Taking the idea of cuddly robots a fluffier step further, researchers at Mälardalen University in Sweden have created the JustoCat, a furry companion for dementia patients. Expected to appear in Sweden’s mental care facilities soon, the robocat is designed to evoke positive recollections people may have associated with spending time with felines in the past, thus unblocking the access to seemingly forgotten memories. The JustoCat aims to harness the positive effects that animal companions demonstrably have on ill people, whilst avoiding the associated maintenance costs and possible allergy issues. JustoCat follows in the footsteps (flipper-steps?) of Paro, the robotic seal.

Lorna Sharpe Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
EU plan to merge member states’ energy markets

This is a really important proposal that hasn’t attracted as much attention as I would expect. The European Commission has put forward plans “to complete the single energy market” through an Energy Union, in which every member state would have to be able to export at least 10 per cent of its generated electricity via interconnectors. The gas market is covered too, with strategies to assist countries that depend on a single external supplier for gas imports (and are therefore vulnerable to technical or political disruptions). Energy efficiency is to be treated ‘as an energy source in its own right’, which looks sensible to me, and there is talk of promoting EU leadership in low-carbon technologies and electromobility. Of course, the commission’s proposals are just a starting point. The final policy might look very different by the time it has been chewed over by the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Even then, implementing a single market can come up against the stumbling block of national interests (the rail freight market is a case in point here). But with a general election looming in the UK, and the prospect of a referendum on EU membership being one of the key differentiators between the parties, we really ought to be paying attention.

World’s first 3D-printed jet engine unveiled

Engineers at Australia’s Monash University have achieved a remarkable breakthrough by building a jet engine using 3D printing – and we’re not just talking about a display model here. They say they will test-fly a prototype within a year. Australia’s geographical position means it’s never likely to be a major mass-market exporter, so it makes sense to compete through innovation and advanced technology instead, and the country has some of the most advanced facilities in the world for 3D printing of metals. Global aerospace giants including Boeing, Airbus, Raytheon and Safran have all been involved in the jet-engine project.

Alex Kalinaukas Alex Kalinauckas, assistant features editor
Formula E selects new powertrain manufacturers

The news that eight manufacturers have been chosen to build the Formula E powertrains for the series’ second season is a great boost for the all-electric motor racing championship. Six of the existing teams (Renault, through e.DAMS-Renault, ABT Sportsline, Andretti, Mahindra, Venturi Automobiles and Virgin Racing Engineering) will construct their own components, alongside newcomers Motomatica and NEXTEV TCR. But there was a slight disappointment that Renault was the only major automotive manufacturer to expand its involvement while BMW, a Formula E partner, and Audi, involved with the ABT team, stayed away.

Expansion of night-time services confirmed for London Tube

I’ve chosen this for the purely selfish reason that an expanded 24 hour tube in the capital will make it easier for me to get home after a night on the tiles. For years I’ve been frustrated that London lagged behind other great cities such as New York, which has run 24 hour train services for years. Fingers crossed the services won’t be all be completely made up of vomiting drunks and raucous revellers (although I somewhat suspect it will), but at least it means no more relying on night buses or scurrilous cab companies to get home safely when a little worse for wear.

dominic-lenton Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Start-ups tap into smart parking technology

Whether it’s the seaside in summer or a pre-Christmas shopping trip, hassle finding a parking space can ruin even the best planned day out when public transport isn’t an option. Great news then that several embryonic tech companies are developing services which act as brokerages between people who have private spaces they’re not using and drivers who need somewhere to leave their car. Build them into a driverless vehicle and – in theory at least – you can leave the whole process of reaching your destination and parking to your vehicle.

Labour leader attempts to win over engineers

Ed Miliband and his advisors have been paying to attention to perennial reports of the harm the shortage of engineers is doing to the UK economy. You wouldn’t expect him to tell an audience of engineers anything other than how much his party values the sector and pledge to tackle the situation. Specifically, they’d like as many 18 year olds to start apprenticeships as go into higher education. Is this one of the touchstone issues that will persuade engineers who to vote for in this year’s general election? Keep an eye on our website where we’ll be tracking what the parties are saying in the run up to polling day.

Rebecca Northfield Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Robotic cat to help treat dementia

Inspiration from nature strikes again. I love is how simple this concept is. The robotic cat behaves like the real thing, all in order to keep old folks with dementia happy. The furry friend doesn’t need feeding and looking after, and is supposed to evoke positive recollections from people, as well as calming them down; the robotic kitty actually looks after you. The positive effects an animal can have on a person with mental health issues are extraordinary. One of my family members suffers from bipolar disorder and adopted a dog from a shelter on doctor’s orders, and he is the happiest he has ever been. Using animals – alive or robotic – as a way of helping people who cannot help themselves is a lovely and effective idea.

Robotic nurse bear to take over demanding healthcare tasks

This is the cutest heavy-duty robot I have ever seen. Developed by Japanese engineers, the ROBEAR takes the pressure off healthcare staff by lifting, transporting and supporting patients who are immobile or unsteady on their feet. I hope they bring the ROBEAR to the UK, so I can give this big guy a hug. And then make him lift me somewhere, so I can giggle like a little girl getting looked after by a Care Bear.

Tereza Pultarova Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter
Whisky waste biofuel plant proposed for Scotland

What a great idea, and what better place to start a whisky waste biofuel business than Scotland. Once all the oil reserves dwindle away the country’s trademark product may be powering its cars as well.

Robotic cat to help treat dementia

Will you get a robotic cat that doesn’t need to eat, isn’t moody, doesn’t produce any waste and can be replaced with an identical unit in the case of ‘death’? Or would you rather get a real cat, perhaps an abandoned one from a shelter? Do robotic pets herald the end for real furry companions?

#GenevaMotorShow – star cars on show from #Ferrari and more – three annotated infographics

February 26, 2015

Once again, the world’s automotive manufacturers will shortly be zipping around the picturesque roads of Geneva, casting narcissistic glances at the reflections of their new super cars as they cruise by the placid, mirror-like surface of the adjacent eponymous Lake.

Yes, ’tis time again for the Geneva Motor Show, when many otherwise perfectly sane, grown-up individuals lose their heads and bandy together in huddled groups, to stand slack-jawed and drooling in awe at the latest strategically shaped and painted hunks of metal before them.

Over 220 exhibitors will be showing around 900 cars at the 2015 Geneva International Motor Show, roughly 100 of which will be world and European premieres. To make matters worse, over 11,000 media representatives are expected to visit the show. That’s a lot of journalists, which in turn means a lot of media coverage. There’s no escaping it: next week, by hook or by crook, the Geneva Motor Show will be all up in your aerodynamically crafted chrome grille.

Click on the graphics for an expanded view.

Geneva Motor Show 2015

Geneva Motor Show 2015

 

Ferrari 458: zippy

Ferrari 458: zippy

 

Ferrari 488 GTB: bungle

Ferrari 488 GTB: bungle

New #Haynes manuals show #space tech doesn’t have to be rocket science

February 26, 2015

Haynes Gemini coverReviewing Haynes’ new ‘Owners’ Workshop Manual’ for the various models of Nasa’s Gemini spacecraft in the current issue of E&T, Mark Williamson welcomes the recognition it gives to the projects that laid the engineering groundwork for the much more celebrated Apollo missions.

  Although small (you could pack six or seven Gemini capsules into a Space Shuttle payload bay), it was America’s first ‘real spacecraft’, as this manual clearly shows… As one would expect from a modern-day Haynes guide, it is illustrated with line drawings based on the Nasa originals and an excellent set of nicely printed colour photographs.

Gemini isn’t the only subject covered in a series of recent new titles from Haynes that will leave space technology enthusiasts spoilt for choice. Also getting the Owners’ Manual treatment are the Soyuz craft developed by the USSR in the heat of the 1960s space race and still operating today, and a practical history of rocket technology.

Dr David Baker, who worked with Nasa between 1965 and 1990 and visited Russian Haynes Soyuzspace facilities several times during the 1980s, describes how Soyuz evolved from as successor to the Vostok-era capsules which carried early cosmonauts into space to become one of the most versatile spacecraft ever built, serving many roles across five decades.

And in a foreword, first Brit in space Dr Helen Sharman writes about her own experience on board Soyuz and affection for the craft.

You could describe Soyuz as a workhorse. I remember it as my home for a couple of days and my safe retreat in case of an emergency on board Mir. I hope that history will accord Soyuz the respect it deserves. It is flexible, adaptable and has sustained several generations of development. For this and its reliable, constant support of a range of activities that are themselves internationally significant, Soyuz deserves regal status.

David Baker is Haynes Rocket coveralso responsible for the text accompanying the stunning images in a manual that takes the characteristic Haynes Motoring Manual approach of breaking down the most complicated motoring jobs into easily understood steps and applies it to rocket science. He describes the book as

…partly a history of how rocket technology came to be developed and how it expanded and evolved, first through the arms race, then the space race and latterly by the race for commercial success in a world increasingly dominated by satellites in orbit around the Earth.

With almost 300 illustrations, cutaway drawings and graphics, the Rocket Manual describes not only the history, but the capabilities of a family of space launchers which underpin the achievements of a space-faring world.

Nasa Gemini Owners’ Workshop Manual by David Woods and David M Harland, RRP £22.99, ISBN 9780857334213

Soyuz Owners’ Workshop Manual: 1967 Onwards (All Models) by David Baker, RRP £21.99, ISBN 9780857334053.

Rocket (1942 onwards) Owners’ Workshop Manual by David Baker, £22.99, ISBN 9780857333711

All published by Haynes. Details from www.haynes.co.uk

@Pebble Time #smartwatch smashes Kickstarter target and sets new record – an annotated infographic

February 25, 2015

In honour of the new Pebble Time smartwatch and its frankly ridonkulous achievement of attracting $6.5m of investment on Kickstarter in a mere half day, we present an up close and personal infographic devoted to this record-breaking, wrist-wrapping superwatch.

Key feature: the low-power colour e-ink display that enables the device to enjoy up to one week’s worth of battery life from a full charge. Take that, Apple Watch!

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Pebble Time smartwatch: attractive

Pebble Time smartwatch: attractive

#Smartwatch market set to explode as clock ticks down to #AppleWatch launch – an annotated infographic

February 25, 2015

The burgeoning smartwatch market looks set to explode with the imminent April release of the Apple Watch. App makers are hoping for the same kind of gold rush that arrived with the iPhone App Store in 2008 and have been metaphorically hopping excitedly from foot to foot since the Apple Watch launch event. Talk of the Watch even dominated CES 2015, despite Apple not even exhibiting at the gadget show.

There have been some bumps along the road so far, as manufacturing issues beset early production. There has also been widespread interwebs carping about the projected battery life of Watch. Mind you, at this stage, no one actually knows.

Of course, the Apple Watch isn’t the only smartwatch game in town, with (inevitably) competing offerings from tech rivals Google and Microsoft. There’s also the not-insignificant matter of Pebble’s range of smartwatches, with their Watch-trouncing seven-day battery life and perfectly reasonable price points. The latest Pebble watch, the color e-ink Time, recently blew the roof off its Kickstarter campaign, for example.

How exactly the nascent smartwatch market shakes out will have to wait until after Easter, when Apple finally rolls away the stone and reveals the Watch to all its disciples.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Apple Watch gold rush

Apple Watch gold rush

#NSA accused of hiding #spyware deep within computer hard drives – an annotated infographic

February 24, 2015

In the week that the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour” won the Best Documentary award at the Oscars, it should come as no surprise to hear that the U.S. National Security Agency – the NSA to its friends – has been hiding spyware deep within computer hard drives made by top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers.

That this revelation should come from researchers in Russia, looking to further hurt the NSA’s surveillance abilities, should also come as no surprise.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Too much watchy watchy

Too much watchy watchy

Russia’s new weapon of choice – the #Kalashnikov AK-12 – an annotated infographic

February 23, 2015

Good news – that is, if you enjoy shooting Ukrainian soldiers in the face. If that’s not your bag, the news that the Russian military has declared that the AK-12 assault rifle will soon replace the AK-74 as its new weapon of choice may largely leave you as cold as a Siberian gulag.

The AK-12 will become the standard-issue infantry rifle to troops in service with the Russian military. The rifle is capable of firing both Russian and NATO-calibre ammunition. It’s nice to have that choice, really.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Ka-blammo!

Ka-blammo!

China dredging to reclaim land in disputed Spratly islands – an annotated infographic

February 23, 2015

China is conducting dredging operations to reclaim land at six locations in the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea. The largest project – begun at at Fiery Cross Reef in August – is an artificial island big enough for a 3,000-metre-long runway and harbour.

The collection of approximately 45 Spratly islands and reefs have no indigenous inhabitants, but offer rich fishing grounds and may also contain significant oil and natural gas reserves. That goes more than a little way to explaining China’s tenacious interest in holding on to them, in the face of ongoing territorial disputes with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Where there’s oil, there’s international tension.

Much of the ocean around the islands is treacherous for marine navigation, with numerous low islands, sunken reefs and atolls, with reefs often rising abruptly from ocean depths greater than 1000m. China’s efforts to reclaim land and construct an airport runway thus seems like an obvious solution to the problem, issues of territorial sovriegnity notwithstanding.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Spratly island:s Chinese interests

Spratly islands: Chinese interests


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